Society Member Ira Nadel featured on Biography Society Blog

Ira Nadel, whose biography of Philip Roth will be published by Oxford in the spring, was featured on the Biography Society webpage. Here's the link to the post: http://biographysociety.org/2020/11/24/ira-nadel-big-lives/


Why are biographies so big? More information, better access, greater reader curiosity? This short, 1000 word essay examines the reasons for “Big Lives” which have in the last year or so have seen Benjamin Moser’s Sontag at 816 pp, Hermione Lee’s Tom Stoppard, 977 pages, Heather Clark’s life of Sylvia Plath at 1152 pp and Blake Bailey’s forthcoming life of Philip Roth at 960 pp. Why have books gotten longer when the time and desire to read has gotten shorter? Answers range from the easier production of books to the belief that in the digital age we can and need to know everything about a person. Data management is the new art of biography. This may have started with Boswell whose two volume life of Boswell topped 1000 pages. The issue is what is the appeal of big lives and what challenges do they pose to readers? What is the value of incident without judgment? My own life of Philip Roth, to appear from Oxford in the spring of 2021, is a svelte 568 pp. give or take a few, a relative lightweight. My earlier biographies include accounts of Leonard Cohen, David Mamet, Tom Stoppard and Leon Uris.

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